Friday, December 19, 2008

New Direction

The new direction I was taking at the end of my last post has seemed like an interesting enough direction that I have decided to pursue it somewhat more, and set aside the work I have been doing on history for a while. For some time, I've been frustrated that I can't seem to get to the practical, middle portions of the knowledge base.

I got a certain ways into pursuing the New Mexico direction, looking up real information for fictional characters, and decided that this was also a good approach for directing my own studies.
In the process, this turned out to give extra incentive to practical activities. I have a tendency to set aside some of the ordinary, mundane tasks of living aside until the last minute, which leads to more stress than I need to deal with. This also connects to what I've been grouping under administrative tasks, of record-keeping, financial management, so I've been working the pas two weeks on sorting the papers I keep into files. So, as a side benefit, my apartment is cleaner and looks better. I've also picked up my study of computer science, re-started my studies in Spanish, and taken a few outdoor walks, and done a little work on the history outline in the Knowledge Base to December. I've also given some time to considering community structure, and constructing maps of my local area. Yes, Google, and Mapquest, and Rand McNally all have maps on line, which is a useful geographic learning tool.

For some time, I've been speculating on renewable energy, and the various technical problems involved in the capture and storage of naturally-generated power. For a lot of purposes, we are dependent on the extraction and burning of fossil fuels for heating, motor fuel, and electricity. There are all kinds of technical problems with sources such as solar energy and wind power, since electric power is not easily stored, and the idea occurred to me some time back that one of the missing links is electrochemical fuel generation. I'm also interested in small technology, rather than the huge plants we usually use.
I was browsing the web and found that there are people who work with small, or micro scale hydroelectric power, but there isn't much off the shelf technology for it. It would not be a large technical problem, since motors and generators are in theory the same device run in different directions, but in practice, the equipment needs to be designed and optimized for a particular use. There isn't nearly the demand for a variety of small generators the way there is for small motors.
This prompted my curiosity on the generation of hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis, and again, there isn't much off-the shelf technology available for it.
This has also re-invigorated my interest in science. I took a walk down the hill near where I live, and though about the local ecology involved in a mixed deciduous forest area, in the Appalachian plateau (near the Monongahela River, resulting in a lot of hills and river and stream valleys). I'm not familiar with the various kinds of trees and plants, to that gives me some practical direction of study. This had something to do with my thoughts on hydropower, and I've also been interested in erosion. This, in turn, prompted some interest in Chemistry, and in looking up some formulas of fluid physics.

The other part if what I've been doing lately involves consideration of New Mexico, specifically Las Cruces. The State of New Mexico has promised funding for SpacePort America, contingent on five major steps. The Environmental Impact statement has been completed and the FAA/ACT has issued a license for the facility, which completes four of the five. The one remaining is to secure an "Anchor Tenant" for the spaceport, and that is expected to be completed by the end of the month. A construction management firm has been selected, and bidding for specific contracts should begin soon, with construction to begin early next year.

Several years back, when I began watching as the X-Prize was offered to prompt the development of reusable suborbital space vehicles, I noted Bert Rutan of Scaled Composites was one of the few contenders with the capability to actually build hardware, and I noted that his vehicle, SpaceShip One, carried by White Knight One, won that prize. Richard Branson founded a company called Virgin Galactic to use a new, enlarged version of that vehicle to carry paying passingers into suborbital flights. Virgin Galactic will be the anchor tenant for the spaceport, and the carrier aircraft, White Knight Two, has recently begun flight testing. I'm watching all this with some interest.